Jenifer Ringer & Natalie Portman: Ballerina Body Controversy

Linda Sharps
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In one corner, we have Natalie Portman, an actress who lost 20 pounds for her role in Black Swan -- a movie that's generating as much buzz for its lead female stars' drastic weight loss as for the actual storyline. In the other, we have Jenifer Ringer, a New York City Ballet dancer who was recently described by a New York Times critic as "looking as if she'd eaten one sugar plum too many."

Interesting, isn't it, that the Hollywood ballerina is being described as too skinny, and the actual one is apparently too fat. It certainly says something about the reality of expectations surrounding dancers' bodies.

While Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky went on record saying Portman's weight loss scared him, Portman has said he was the one who encouraged her to lose as much as she could. “Darren claims he never said this," said Portman, "But he definitely was like, ‘How thin do you think you can get without being sick?’”

Whether or not Portman exceeded Aronofsky's requirements for her role, it's obvious the intention was for her to undergo a dramatic transformation. After all, Portman trained for up to 8 hours a day with only one day off per week.

"The goal was to create a very long, lean ballet-type body," her trainer, former professional ballerina Mary Helen Bower said. "We combined swimming a mile a day with two hours worth of Ballet Beautiful exercises, toning, and resistance work. And another 3-plus hours of ballet class and point work."

Meanwhile, the criticism of New York City Ballet dancer Jenifer Ringer -- described by NY Times writer Alastair Macaulay as being too heavy in her role as the Sugar Plum Fairy -- has generated an immense outpouring of online fury on her behalf, perhaps in particular because she's been open about her past struggles with anorexia. The backlash spurred Macaulay to post a follow-up article in which he defended his original comment, saying, "If you want to make your appearance irrelevant to criticism, do not choose ballet as a career."


Ringer -- who in my unprofessional opinion does not appear to have a single area in her body where a spare sugar plum could be hidden -- has
responded to the article, saying that while she was initially hurt, she's been uplifted by the public support. She also said that in her ballet company, diversity in body shape is a good thing.

We have every body type out there, and they can all dance like crazy. They're all gorgeous. I think dance should be more of a celebration of that, and seeing all these wonderful women with these different bodies, all dancing to this gorgeous music.

Why do you think there's been so much attention on whether Natalie Portman is too thin in Black Swan, when the reality is that ballerinas are clearly expected to be too thin?



Image via Fox

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